Myth Our Packaging Is Immoral

Fact: Many people argue that the best way to "save landfill space" is to reduce the amount of packaging Americans use, via mandatory controls. But packaging can actually reduce total garbage produced and total resources used. The average American family generates fully one third less trash than does the average Mexican household. The reason is that our intensive use of packaging yields less spoilage and breakage, thereby saving resources, and producing, on balance, less total rubbish. Careful packaging also reduces food poisoning and other health problems.

Over the past 25 years, market incentives have already reduced the weights of individual packages by 30 to 70 percent. An average aluminum can weighed nearly 21 grams in 1972; in 2002, that same can weighs in at under 14 grams. A plastic grocery sack was 2.3 mils thick in 1976; by 2001, it was a mere 0.7 mils.

By contrast, the environmentally sensitive New York Times has been growing. A year's worth of the newspaper now weighs 520 pounds and occupies more than 40 cubic feet in a landfill. This is equivalent in weight to 17,180 aluminum cans—nearly a century's worth of beer and soft drink consumption by one person. Clearly, people anxious to heal Mother Earth must forego the Times!

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